"The universe is expanding at an alarming rate!"

Okay, sorry about that title...it is an actual quote from a History Channel documentary on, well, the universe.  I nearly spat out my cool beverage with laughter when I heard it the first time and have really wanted to share it since then.  I have yet to finish watching that series on the huge DVD disk set I bought because, despite the fascinating topic and the decent information content, they tried so hard to be dramatic in every aspect it just became tedious.  Every topic seemed to turn into some new graphic simulation of Planet Earth being devoured, exploded, ice-balled, drowned, bombarded what-have-you'd into oblivion, as often as possible complete with screaming people and ruined cities.

The underlying problem they are trying to solve is the central problem of science out-reach and communication.  Basically, it is a real challenge to make scientific information relevant and intuitive.  Hence every large volume is converted into numbers of olympic sized swimming pools, every height measured in stacks of elephants.  But lets face it, that still doesn't work.

Which brings me to the actual topic of this post:

I don't really like it.  Eli disagrees. I won't explain why, it just so happens that this guy has already explained it to my satisfaction.  But I'm not against it, or outraged or calling for its digital destruction, I just don't think it is useful in the end.

Mind you, I really don't have any better way to get the danger and the urgency across to an apathetic general population so kudos to SkS for trying. The climate change emergency really is an emergency but it is a dumbfoundingly different kind of emergency.

More like this

Kahan is not wrong - he is simply missing the point! And he misses it repeatedly. He just needs to get out more! No one but no one believes that motivated climate cranks are going to be persuaded by any evidence. They are simply not the target of the messaging.

Here is more missing the frigging point linked to by Yulsman.
"So the Hiroshima/climate change comparison is not likely to accomplish it’s goal of changing the minds of climate skeptics or deniers"

Yeah you reckon? What do you think might work? A full lobotomy perhaps? Pearl clutching indeed! It is so ridiculous, it is actually laugh out loud funny.

I hate the over-zealous dramatization as well. I think it is damaging science communication.

The atomic bomb comparison is in the same category even though it may be correct.

We puny humans with our limited lifespans have great difficulty understanding true time and space and the changes that happen over millennia.

By Kenny A. Chaffin (not verified) on 10 Dec 2013 #permalink

Alarming rate?
Surely you jest sir-- evidence for a Uniformitariani Creation is advancing from strength to strength !

I tend to agree with you Coby, I can't see the point of the atomic bomb analogy, for two reasons.

Firstly, you either accept the evidence or you are a denier - and analogies like this aren't going to change the minds of a denier. They are like creationists - their position is based on faith and not reason, and you can't reason someone out of a position that they didn't reason themselves into in the first place.

Secondly, the analogy itself is pretty meaningless. Anyone can grasp the size of a football field etc, and do the comparison with an object such as an aircraft wingspan. But who has any idea how much energy is in an atomic explosion and what that means for the Earth's climate system as a whole - I sure don't (although I can make a reasonable estimate of the first part of the equation)?

The only real reason for the analogy that I can see is to put the energy imbalance of the climate system into context - but this doesn't do that in a meaningful way (to me at least).

So when Nat Geo say that an area the size of Wales of Amazon Rainforest is being cleared, this is pointless?


What if we pointed out that the accumulated heat was enough to boil 30 1-km cubes of solid lead, is that pointless?

If so, why?

So, for all the rest of us who don't really know and don't really care, how big is Wales and how does that compare to the size of the Amazon forest?

And how much heat does it require to boil lead?

You see wow, if you are going to use an analogy, it is absolutely essential that you use an analogy that people can easily picture. That's actually the point on an analogy.

A common analogy used in Australia to refer to volumes of water by comparing them to Sydney Harbour - as in 'the dam hold 3 times as much water as Sydney Harbour'. People here get it - but an American would have no idea. And if they don't get it, the analogy is wasted.

And as far as I am concerned, the Hiroshima bomb analogy for accumulated heat is not easily understood.

The best analogy I've seen for the extra heat being accumulated was a night-time photo of a beach covered with light bulbs that were equivalent in wattage to the additional warming. I searched, but of course now I can't find the photo.

By Richard Simons (not verified) on 12 Dec 2013 #permalink

"So, for all the rest of us who don’t really know and don’t really care, how big is Wales "

If you don't care, mandy, why are you asking?

For a 'merkin, "The State Of New York" would be used. You know, just like they use "libraries of congress". Aussies would use Tasmania or something.

Tell me, are you just playing this dumb, or are you really that incapable?

But even if you don't know how big Wales is, you know it's damn big: it's a country, not merely "a big forest".

"And how much heat does it require to boil lead?"

Do you think it's easy to boil lead, mandy? Do you think a brisk rub with a chamois will melt a block of it 1km on a side?

Of course, the problem here is that you really don't want to understand, much like kai really doesn't want to understand many other things.

Indeed, there's not a lot of difference between you two.

Mandy, do you think nobody understands the size of the Hiroshima bomb?

It was quite a big story. Lots of people have heard about it. And the destruction it caused.

That cannot be brushed off as "It's nothing" when you hear the accumulating extra heat is 3 of those each second.

But like I said, you don't WANT to understand, just like kai doesn't want to understand AGW or, really, reality.

Coby: I remembered it slightly differently, but that is probably the image I had in mind.

By Richard Simons (not verified) on 12 Dec 2013 #permalink

"....Tell me, are you just playing this dumb, or are you really that incapable?...."

I always find it is important to converse with a person at a level that they are capable of understanding - so I am playing dumb just for you.

".....But even if you don’t know how big Wales is, you know it’s damn big: it’s a country, not merely “a big forest”....."

Monaco is a country as well - and my backyard is bigger.

Sorry, mandy, you're not going to go "I'm only dumb because you are, nyah!"

I'd given that up as a valid and useful argument before I was six. You, apparently, still think it has legs.

So the answer to that query is one of

1) Yes, you are that incapable
2) You're just being a twat

No wow, I didn't say that I was only dumb because you are. I said that I was trying to dumb down my language to your level. You really need to pay more attention to the actual words, rather than just putting your own spin on them. I think you have been listening to freddy too long.

"...So the answer to that query is one of
1) Yes, you are that incapable
2) You’re just being a twat..."

Well come on Wow, pick one. Let's see if you have the ability to make a decision based on evidence. Am I incapable or am I - in your quaint pommy speak - a " twat"?

Well, I see saving the planet has continued here with a new level of urgency!

Well done gentlemen. Quite an example.

Well, it appears saving the planet continues and with a new sense of urgency.

Well done gentlemen. Quite an example.

Now, for me, I think the punctuation and wording of the first statement makes the concept much more clear and easier to understand than the second.

Perhaps some of you could take a break from saving the planet and weigh in?

No-one around here is trying to save the planet Paul. The planet will still be here long after humans have disappeared.

We are trying to reduce the harmful impacts on the future for our children of environmental degradation. Why aren't you?

Don't worry, pauline, your sarcasm is expected and completely within your character.

PS Mandy, remember pauline doesn't want to help someone if it costs them anything. Not even their own children. 'course, Pauline hasn't got any, they're expensive and need educating and that cuts *seriously* into the time spent at the bar...

" I didn’t say that I was only dumb because you are. "

Yes you did, mandy. Here:

"I always find it is important to converse with a person at a level that they are capable of understanding – so I am playing dumb just for you."

If you were capable of being less dumb, you could be using that instead.

You didn't.

Because you can't.


Looks like you have trouble comprehending the most basic statements wow. Let me break it down for you:

I did not say I was dumb. I said I was PLAYING dumb so that you could understand me.

Is that simple enough for you, or do I have to make it even simpler for you?

Nope, it doesn't look like that, Mandy. It doesn't look that way at all.

You are dumb. You are playing dumb which means you ARE dumb.

You refuse to say "Yes, I know what the hiroshima bomb was and it was not negligible on a human scale" because you're petty and mindlessly gainsaying anything because you're dumbly playing dumb.

You're playing dumb because that's the only method you can think of to cover the fact that your "argument" is full of shit and ignorance. And you can't think of a better one because you're dumb.

But you go "Hah! I'm only playing dumb!" because that's the only argument you can see for defending playing dumb and that, again, is because you're dumb.

"We are trying to reduce the harmful impacts on the future for our children of environmental degradation. Why aren’t you?"

1) Oh it looks like it. Quite effective.
2) My carbon foot print is less than zero and going down.

""Why aren’t you?”

1) Oh it looks like it"

Winner of the non-sequitur award, 2013!

"....You refuse to say “Yes, I know what the hiroshima bomb was and it was not negligible on a human scale” because you’re petty and mindlessly gainsaying anything because you’re dumbly playing dumb...."

Au contraire my idiot acquaintance. That's not why I refuse to say it at all. I refuse to say it because it is irrelevant to the issue whether or not the Hiroshima bomb was or wasn't negligible on a human scale.

I refuse to say it because people cannot grasp what it means on a climatic scale. But if you could read you would have know that, because that's what I said in my first post.

You really need to practice your trolling skills wow. You aren't very good at it - but then, I doubt there is anything that you are very good at.

"That’s not why I refuse to say it at all."

No, that is it, dear.

You're doing a kai, shall we say.

"I refuse to say it because people cannot grasp what it means on a climatic scale."

Oh, so it's ALL THOSE OTHER PEOPLE who are dumb.


'....Oh, so it’s ALL THOSE OTHER PEOPLE who are dumb...."

Really wow? That's what you've got? You think that if I get the simple fact that most people can't grasp what the energy released from a small atomic explosion means to the climate as a whole, then I must think they are dumb?

You really should get back on your medication.

No, dear, that's the essence of your argument: "other people" are too dumb, therefore you'll protect them from the confusion!


You claimed “I refuse to say it because people cannot grasp what it means on a climatic scale.”.

That means you think people are dumb. Right there in black and white.

Of course, that makes you the villain, whereas you think yourself the saviour. So you whine and bitch and moan and whine and bitch and moan in a never ending loop.

People understand the size of the hiroshima bomb.

It's not irrelevantly small.

And three per second is not a small amount.

the truth is that mandas AND wow are dumb.

can you two please stop your childishly primitive struggle

Freddy, please.
They're trying to save the . . . er, trying to reduce the harmful impacts on future generations.

Thank you for saying that we both are better people than you, pauline.

Yes you are.
I wonder how much headway you've made today?

Oh, oh, wait, there it is, documented above.
Nice job fella's.
I wish you as much success tomorrow!

"and it will change our lives' forever" and "increasing at an alarming rate" : These types of phrases are so overused, they are convey concepts that just arn't credible. Period! In fact, in the first case, the change is mostly imperceptible, and in the second, the measurement is most probably at fault. There is so little that we really know, that percetsions take precident over the facts. This is penetration all kinds of communication to the point that we hardly know what truth is!

By Ron Cowgill (not verified) on 17 Dec 2013 #permalink

Yes I am what?

A better person?

Damn straight.

Hi Ron,

The world is full of things that can change you life forever, and there are plenty of things to be alarmed about, so while those phrases may indeed be overused they hardly represent incredible concepts.

Assuming the rest of your comment is about climate change it is a rather ridiculous assertion to make that changes are mostly imperceptible. Don't confuse climate change (stronger storms, more extreme events, shifting climatic zones, long term sea level rise, ocean acidification) with a simple rising in average global temperature. And since the measurement (of temperature I presume) agrees with every other indicator we have it is vanishingly unlikely to be wrong in any significant way.

Finally, don't project your own ignorance ("there is so little that we really know") onto the entire scientific field!

Yes, and we are all so grateful for your positive impacts on the climate crisis!
Why I hear people say all the time, "I wish I was more like Wow in my ability to mitigate climate change, just look at all he has done. Such a selfless, high-minded individual."

I personally feel so fortunate just to be able to heap praise on someone of your stature.

Ron, Ron, Ron,
Where to begin?
You really should peruse the ipcc reports before commenting.
You'll find a wealth of current information you can use to more fully develop your observations and help keep them in the realm of the believable.

Much better than throwing out vague accusations of incompetence like a faux news parrot, don't you think?

But welcome, you'll be received here with love and kindness (and better luck next time.)


I have to know what has happened to you. Once upon a time you could be relied upon to deny climate change. You seemed to do so based on libertarian ideals rather than scientific argument, but you appear to have modified your position somewhat.

I'm pleased about that - but also wonder what happened.

Nothing left: it's just now having to find happiness in the fact that they've managed to deny the facts this long and that things are going down the toilet visibly already.

Pauline being, of course, the little turd floating on top.

Oh, mandy,
I've never really denied climate change. If you look closely at my comments, they always support the data. Now I do understand that if it's not spoken about in the approved manner, some will call that denial. And I do understand that if the "wrong" data source is referred to, many will say denier or otherwise denigrate.

And of course ideology can not prove or disprove science.

And you'll note I have advocated much more extreme carbon reduction measures than I have seen by others here.

Measures that actually reduce carbon emissions rather than work around the edges with "feel good" measures designed to allow people to say they support the cause without really interrupting their lifestyle.

"I’ve never really denied climate change"

Yes you have. Lots of times, Pauline.

You've never been able to say how climate can change. All you've ever said is that "its weather, not climate" and refuse all evidence for climate change by that idiocy. You accept climate change as long as it's "potential" and never actually real.


You're a moron. It's the best you can do.

PS yes, using a source that is wrong, as you always manage to do, is what deniers do.

"And you’ll note I have advocated much more extreme carbon reduction measures than I have seen by others here."

Nope, this hasn't been noted because it doesn't exist, dear.

You've got both exactly backwards.

Ah, so a 360-degree turn around.

Blah, blah, blah
Either you're for eliminating (to zero) CO2 at the source by about 2060 or you're a poser.
By military force where necessary.
Straight line reduction, not future action.
Start today.

Blah blah blah, yourself pauline.

Where do you get your insanity from? Or is this the last gasp of your ideology?

Reality is something you leave alone, isn't it, pauline.

What is saying "poser" supposed to do? Really.

you've proven yourself irrelevant, shoo


What made THAT statement? That fantasy world again, Pauline?

Hey, pauline, will your answer to that question be like all the others? "Look! SQUIRREL!!!"?

wow, any scientific reference which supports your speculation?

Yes, kai, there is.

wow, so reference it please:

title of paper: xxx
authors: xxx
journal: xxx
volume: xxx
pages: xxx
year: xxx

come on, don't be so lazy

It's not my job to do your work for you, kai.

i wish all the agw creationists a happy cool New Year 2014 that shows that global temperature decreases and agw turns out what it is: fake.


That was an asinine statement.

Got any proof of it, kaibot?

kaibot, do you accept Christy's UAH satellite dataset as indicative of global air temperatures for the last 15 years?

wow, from a strictly scientific point of view all "determinations" of "global air temperatures" are terrible methodological crap, a pure shame for honest research. of course you have no feeling for this as you are no scientist and do only copy / paste what pleases your prejudices.

happy new year and take it easy

Ah, so your claims of a cooling trend are from a terrible methodology and therefore completely worthless, then, kaibot.

So your claim even from your own point of view was bullshit.

wow, reading comprehension problems or intentional misreading? in #60 i expressed one of my wishes for 2014, not a global temperature projection. read better, please, before drawing wrong bullshit

Nope, I read fine and comprehend your idiocy quite adequately.

You've expressed immense idiocy and complete lack of any humanity in yourself.

But you pretend that all you've said is "Happy new year" when that wasn't what you'd said.

wow, you misunderstood what i really said to you

nope, you said, kaibot, and I quote:

that shows that global temperature decreases and agw turns out what it is: fake.

NOTHING about wishing well there.

Oh, hang on, I get it now, you're wishing for this year to be "proof" that AGW doesn't exist.

Well, science isn't helping, I guess magic is all you've got left to save your ideology, huh.

wow, your arrogance of informed ignorance falls fully on you and you don't even perceive the blow

What arrogance, kaibot?

Is it arrogant to say "you said this" and then quote what you said now? When was that changed? Why did YOU get to redefine it?

wow, your arrogance is that you think and behave as if you knew something about climatology and meteorology, despite the fact that you are no expert at all in this field.

See, kaibot, that right there is arrogance.

Where did your "fact" come from if not from your own profound and utter ignorance requiring that your version MUST be truth because your arrogance will not condone you being in error.

Look, kid, just because you're a moron does not make someone arrogant when they know more than you do.